NICHOLASVILLE — A Marine who lost both his legs and his eyesight in an explosion in Iraq opened the door to a new phase of life Saturday at a ceremony presenting him and his family with a specially built house.
Kentucky native Cpl. Matt Bradford and his family received the keys from a program called Helping a Hero, which builds customized homes for military personnel severely injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It's an amazing feeling to know we are home," said Matt's wife, Amanda Bradford.
Matt Bradford, 26, was injured in January 2007 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device. He was blinded when shrapnel penetrated his eyes. He has two prosthetic legs and walks with a cane.
On Saturday, family, friends and neighbors gathered as the Bradfords toured their one-story home, located in Equestrian Estates in northern Jessamine County.
The house contains five bedrooms and three bathrooms in 3,500 square feet.
Amanda Bradford, holding the couple's youngest child, Layla, gently led Matt as he felt the granite countertops in the kitchen for the first time. The older children, Nolan and Emma Leff, rushed ahead, smiling as they explored.
After the emotional first look at the house, the couple laughed and smiled while chatting with friends.
"It's really going to reunite our family," Amanda Bradford said.
Randall Peterson Homes started building the house in February. Helping a Hero raised about $200,000 through private donations. The Bradfords will pay a $50,000 mortgage and agreed to remain in the house for 10 years.
Builder Randall Peterson said wide hallways and doorways will accommodate Matt Bradford's wheelchair, and ramps outside will make it easier for him to maneuver.
Voice-activated controls will be installed by which Bradford will be able to control the television and even lock the doors.
"I'm excited for the independence to go out back on my own," Matt Bradford said. He no longer has to worry about steps or curbs, he said.
The Bradford family moved from a two-story house in Lexington, and Amanda Bradford said having everybody on one floor will make life easier and safer.
"I'm just excited for our everyday family life to get back to normal," she said.
In their new backyard, supporters waved American flags, sang the national anthem and cheered for the family. U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and his wife, Kelley, who is on the organization's board of directors, all spoke and presented the family with the key to the house.
"This house is a new beginning for our family," Matt Bradford said at the ceremony. "The gift is so much greater than we ever could have imagined."
Rachel Aretakis: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @heraldleader